UK Liberty

Tories consider West Lothian

Posted in accountability, politicians on liberty by ukliberty on July 1, 2008

The BBC:

Scottish MPs should have fewer powers over legislation which applies only to England, Wales and Northern Ireland, a Conservative taskforce has said.

At present Scottish MPs can vote on measures which do not affect Scotland.

Ken Clarke’s group says MPs from Wales and Northern Ireland should also lose some powers over English-only measures.

The proposals are not binding on the Conservatives, but shadow justice secretary Nick Herbert said they would “introduce greater fairness”.

Mr Clarke’s committee suggests there should be voting restrictions when MPs look at the “committee stage” of a bill – when most in-depth amendments are discussed.

For matters relating solely to England, only English MPs should vote, while English and Welsh MPs alone should vote on issues only affecting those two countries, it argues.

MPs from all countries could later vote to pass or reject the bill as a whole, the committee adds.

I don’t think that goes far enough. Putting aside notions that any changes would “destroy the Union” (your guess is as good as mine and Jack Straw’s as to how true that is), why should Scottish MPs vote on legislation that only affects England, and vice versa?  I’ve been following this debate for some time, and to date no-one has answered that question.

It’s worth highlighting that,

Westminster controls issues such as; defence, foreign affairs, national security, pensions and benefits, most tax, the civil service, drugs policy, firearms, energy and health and safety.

Holyrood has power to pass laws on Scottish issues including the NHS, education, transport, police, fire brigade, social work, housing, tourism, criminal law and courts and prisons.

Alistar Carmichael disappoints:

Lib Dem home affairs spokesman Alistair Carmichael said: “Ken Clarke’s proposals … still create a situation whereby the Government of the day could be unable to implement its own policies. This is a recipe for constitutional chaos.”

Clearly Government should be allowed to “implement its own policies” regardless of Parliament – in which case, what is the point of having Parliament, and indeed Carmichael?

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